YMCA Anniversary Roadshow

YMCA Grimsby to hold inaugural launch of a national, 175th anniversary roadshow

IN A year when the YMCA is already making positive Grimsby headlines, due to the announcement of a fantastic £8 million development in the Freeman Street area, the Peaks Lane-based organisation is also preparing for the national spotlight as a part of an exciting, anniversary event.

From September 9-12, the historic Central Hall, in Duncombe Street, will be the site of an interactive exhibition celebrating 175-years of YMCA history. Grimsby has been chosen as a flagship town, the inaugural launch and one of only ten UK YMCAs to be given the honour of hosting the ‘175th Anniversary Roadshow’.

For history enthusiasts and local people alike, the event will be a wonderful opportunity to find out more about the charity’s roots, along with tales from the YMCA in the area. For example, did you know that basketball and volleyball were founded at the YMCA, and did you know that its first holiday centre was established in 1873, on the Isle of Wight?

YMCA Humber CEO Debbie Cook said: “The event is a great opportunity for the people of Grimsby to experience 175-years of YMCA history. Some of our clients will be volunteering and the event will be opened by the Mayor.

“We are really proud of the work that we do at the YMCA and this exhibition gives us the chance to acknowledge the fantastic work that has been done in Grimsby, since 1882.”

Founder of the charity, Sir George Williams, was a young man from Victorian Somerset, who described himself as “a careless, thoughtless, Godless, swearing young fellow” before being sent by his father to apprentice at a Bridgwater draper’s shop. On moving to London, he was so appalled by the lack of facilities for young men in the city – the activities and interests namely taverns and houses of ill repute – that he decided to put his recent conversion to Congregationalism to good use and set up the YMCA. The group, founded in 1844, practised ‘Muscular Christianity’, a cultural area of religion which promoted athleticism as a means to a healthier lifestyle, both mentally and physically, in addition to bible study.

Extremely popular in the city, George took his idea to The Great Exhibition, hosted by Prince Albert at the controversial, yet rather brilliant, Crystal Palace, in 1851. From here, the YMCA quickly spread across the globe, eventually becoming the inspirational organisation it is today.

The year 1882 saw the formation of the first ever branch of the YMCA in Grimsby, by local grocer James Kirkby Riggall. Whilst it is fair to say that the branch struggled to maintain itself, and little more is known of it until the early 20th century, archive material at Birmingham University clearly proves that Mr Kirkby Riggall should be given the credit for the beginnings of the YMCA in the town.

The first official Grimsby YMCA was established in 1902 by Fred Bacon, another grocer, who was instrumental in the first local base, in Heneage Road, in 1908.

The current Peaks Lane site was built in 1972 while the new building will house a training cafe and community facilities in a purpose-built, family-friendly environment.

Debbie said: “Our move to Freeman Street is very much about raising aspirations for young people in the town. They will be afforded the very best accommodation, giving them a solid foundation to move forward and pursue their dreams, believing them to be possible. Our new building will be more than accommodation; it will be a community facility, with the potential to support and reconnect families.

“The on-site cafe will enable the people employed to gain real-life work experience.”

You can go deeper into the YMCA history and find out more about the new, Freeman Street building by visiting the exhibition, open to the public on Thursday, September 12, from 10am to 7pm. Visitors will be able to see Sir George’s actual desk, original YMCA artwork, a basketball history, local information and more!

Invited guests will be welcome at the exhibition on the opening day, September 9, while local schools are invited on September 10 and community groups on September 11. If you know a school or group interested in joining the YMCA for this very special event, call 01472 359621.

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